Rich yet poor! Poor, yet rich!
James Smith, 1856
A Swedish lady and her servant, attending a prayer meeting, were observed to be in great distress, and on being asked what was the cause of their distress, and what they wanted, replied, "We lack everything — for we lack Jesus!"
What a confession! They saw and felt their need of Christ, and that without him they were wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. They were taught by the Holy Spirit to perceive, that all was nothing, without Christ. Having Christ — they would have all things; lacking Christ — they lacked everything. How very few feel thus! By how very few is that part of the Spirit's work experimentally known! But blessed be God, there are some who are the subjects of it.
Sam Jordan was a great Pharisee. He trusted in his church-going, in his prayers, and in the various duties he performed. He felt himself superior to all his companions. He made sure of heaven. He never swore. He did not frequent the tavern. He was honest and industrious. His cottage was well furnished, his wife was quiet and respectable, his children were all sent to school, his baker and grocer were regularly paid, and he felt himself quite safe for heaven. He read or repeated a prayer every day, and said grace over his meals; and if Sam Jordan did not go to heaven, I wonder who would. Such was his conduct, and such was his thought.
But on one occasion, as he was reading, that passage caught his eye, and arrested his attention, "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things written in the book of the law to do them." He paused, he pondered, he was unusually interested. He asked himself, "What is written in the book of the law?" And, as if a voice had spoken, the reply came, "You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself." He felt as if he was fastened to the spot. Love God, he thought, and love him so — why I have never done that! Love my neighbor as myself — why I have never done that!
Clouds began to gather over his mind, deep convictions penetrated his soul, and he felt unhappy. He repeated his prayer — but it afforded him no comfort. He felt as if he had a barbed arrow in his conscience. He could obtain no rest. He read his bible — but it gave him no relief. He attended his church — but he only grew more wretched. What to do, he knew not; all his righteousness was as filthy rags. He felt ashamed of the very works in which he formerly gloried. His sense of guilt increased. He felt he needed a Savior; one who would save him fully, freely. A Savior in name, would not do now; it must be a Savior in deed. He could no longer talk of doing his best, and Christ making up the rest. He could do nothing that would be pleasing in the sight of God; all was sinful, impure, and deserved punishment. From the depth of his soul he cried, "What shall I do?"
His ear was now opened to listen, and his understanding was enlightened to perceive. His best works were but dung and dross. He heard the gospel as with new ears. He read his New Testament as in a new light. The Lord Jesus was just what he wanted, and all he wanted. But he did not see his right to apply to that Savior, or to expect salvation from him. Had he been asked what he lacked, like the Swedish lady, he would have said, "I lack everything — for I lack Jesus!"
At length the Holy Spirit showed him, that there was a broad welcome to come to Jesus, held forth in the gospel. That its invitations were free — free for him. He was the weary and heavy laden soul. He was the thirsty sinner. It was he who had been spending his money for that which was not bread, and his labor for that which satisfied not. He was therefore invited to Jesus, he was called by Jesus. He heard, he understood, he believed. Hope sprung up in his mind, he saw that salvation was a free gift, and that whoever would, might appropriate it. His heart yielded, he renounced everything, he ventured on Christ, and the clouds rolled away from his mind, the arrow was extracted from his conscience, the burden fell from his soul — and he felt peace, he was happy.
Sam Jordan was a new man. His Bible was a new book. The gospel was a new subject. He was in a new world. "Old things were passed away, and behold all things became new." Ask him, What do you lack? His reply is, "I have all things, for I have Jesus!" Christ is his wisdom, his righteousness, his sanctification, and redemption. If you talk to him of his works, he says, "Not my works, the work of Jesus is now my boast!" He has renounced SELF, he is become dead to the law, and Christ is his Alpha and Omega, his first and his last.
He wonders now how he could be so blind, and remain blind so long. In business he is more diligent than ever, in his payments quite as punctual; he is a better husband, better father, better neighbor, better servant; but he renounces all, and calls himself an unprofitable servant. Christ is his all, and he does all for Christ, out of love to his dear name, and from gratitude for his great salvation. Obedience is his delight.
His wife, Mary Jordan, wonders at the change — but does not approve of it. She is sure there is no necessity for people to trouble themselves as her husband did — for God is merciful; nor to act just as her husband acts — for the Bible cautions us against being "righteous over much." These new notions do not at all accord with her views, and these new practices do not commend themselves to her judgment. True, Sam is a very good husband; but so he was before. He pays every one their own; but so he did before. Now there is so much preaching and praying — that she has no patience with it. And as to going to church or chapel of week nights — she sees no necessity for that.
Poor Mary Jordan is still blind — she sees not her danger; she is dead — she feels not her condition. She prefers the religion of nature — to the religion of grace. She approves of morality; but, "as to this spirituality, as they call it," she does not understand that, and she has "no wish to." If her husband is right — then nearly all the world is wrong; and then what has become of all who have gone before us? It is a great pity that people will not leave well alone, and go to heaven in the way their forefathers did before them. Thus she talks.
True, she kneels down at family prayer, and goes with her husband to hear the sermons; but it is because she likes peace and quietness. Sam prays for her, talks to her, and hopes to see a change in her; but she appears to be settled on her lees. She has read of the Swedish lady and her maid — but confesses she cannot understand how a lady could say, "We lack everything — for we lack Jesus!"
Poor thing! Thus "the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The teaching of the Holy Spirit is necessary, in order that we may see our need of Christ, feel our souls going out after him, and embrace him as the Savior of poor lost sinners.
It was the teaching of the Holy Spirit which led the Swedish lady and her servant, through the means of a religious tract, to see that they lacked everything, while they lacked Jesus. And it was the same Spirit that directed Sam Jordan's eye to the passage of Scripture referred to, applied it to his soul, and ultimately made him a new creature in Christ Jesus. And it was the lack of this blessed Spirit's teaching, that led Mary Jordan to continue to be a poor blind Pharisee, resting on her own miserable works, and rejecting the full and free salvation presented in the everlasting gospel.
Reader, are you taught of the Spirit? Have you experienced a change similar to Sam Jordan's? Have you ever felt as the Swedish lady felt? If not, you need the Holy Spirit, and should seek it in earnest, fervent prayer. If you have not the Spirit of Christ — then you are none of his. If you do not feel your need of Christ — you will never apply to him; and if you do not apply to him — you will never be saved by him; and, as there is no other Savior, if you are not saved by the Lord Jesus — you will be lost forever! Lost forever! Lost forever! What an awful thought! What a fearful prospect! What a dreadful supposition, for you to be lost, and lost forever!